Portable electricity generation has always been the realm of non-rechargeable chemical batteries, and more recently, various formulations of rechargeable batteries, such as Nickel-Cadmium [NiCAD] and Lithium-ion [Li-ion]. Hydrogen Fuel Cell [HFC] technology has been under development for years, and technological advances have reduced HFC generators from the size of cargo vans to, now, the size of a smart-phone.
Rohm Co Ltd, Aquafairy Corp and Kyoto University announced recently that they had co-developed a series of very small and lightweight hydrogen fuel cells that can provide electricity in areas where power isn’t available or accessible. Using proprietary methods, and utilizing a hydrogen-generating material, such as calcium-hydride [CaH2] or magnesium-hydride [MgH2], the three groups have eliminated the need for pure hydrogen in canisters or hydrogen locked in various fuels. The compound CaH2 was chosen because of its low reactivity and tendency to react across a wider temperature range. It is also easier to produce and recycle than other materials.
The new HFC, a Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cell [PEFC], generates electricity when water is introduced. The water [H2O] reacts with the metal [CaH2] and releases pure hydrogen [H2] gas, which then passes through the electrolyte membrane as in typical HFCs, generating electrical current. On the other side of the electrolyte, H2 combines with Oxygen [O2] in the air to produce water vapor. The end result is clean energy without the danger of stored hydrogen or hydrocarbon fuels.
The new technology is lighter and because H2 is generated on demand, there is no need to carry any type of fuel. Water, readily available, is only needed when electricity is needed, so that, too, does not need to be carried. The hydrogen-generating metal, CaH2, and the rest of the fuel cell, can be molded into any shape desired, such as a smart-phone case, or the size and shape of a deck of cards. The new portable charger only requires a few cc’s of water, and will generate 5.2 V at 500 mA, enough to charge a modern smart-phone in about two hours. Rohm, Aquafairy, and Kyoto University plan to refine and commercialize the new technology for release in 2013.